Teach English Online | Day in the Life of an Online English Teacher

Teach English Online - teacher sitting cross legged on floor in front of laptop teacheing English

Teaching English online was and still is a great way to earn a living whilst being a digital nomad or location-independent freelancer. It’s also good if you just want to earn a bit of extra cash whilst long-term travelling.

Before Andy and I first left the UK to travel, live and work abroad we both took great TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) courses with i-to-i (me) and Tefl.org (Andy) and got our TEFL certificates.

We planned to use these to teach English online or in schools. For me this hasn’t happened yet as I decided to pursue other avenues as a digital nomad in Siem Reap and Greece. However, whilst I did that Andy taught in a school there, and since then has now been teaching online full-time for 4 years.

However, things have changed quite a lot in the online teaching world in the last couple of years and VIPKID which we previously recommended in this post now not such a great option. So we’ve updated this post, based on Andy’s own experience teaching adults and from our friend Nic from See Nic Wander who teaches children. Together we tell you all about teaching English online in general and share what a day in the life of an online English teacher is like.

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Teach English Online – What is teaching English online?

Teach English Online - teacher sitting cross legged on floor in front of laptop teacheing English

As an online English teacher, you offer lessons to students who are learning English as a second language. It’s possible to teach students of all levels and ages from around the world, and since classes are held entirely online, the job works well for anyone who wants to work from home, travel often, or simply avoid a long commute. 

Nic’s teaching English online journey began a few years ago when a friend found out she wanted to travel more but wasn’t sure how to do it. She had been teaching with VIPKid on the weekends as a side hustle and she loved it. Since the job was remote, she thought it could be a good fit for Nic too.

At that time, Nic didn’t know that it was possible to teach English remotely and was intrigued by how much flexibility came with the role. She decided to try it out for herself and quickly realized it was an awesome decision for the location-independent lifestyle she wanted. 

Over the years, Nic has taught online with several platforms and has had an amazing experience. Now, she’s passionate about helping others find remote teaching roles they love too.

What do you need to teach online?

Before you start sending out job applications and meeting your first students, there are a few things you’ll need. 

TEFL Certification: A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification is usually required for online teaching positions. You can get TEFL certified online or in person, just make sure the program you choose is accredited like i-to-i that I used and Tefl.org which Andy used.

Good internet connection: The internet is your best friend as an online teacher. While it’s fine to teach over WiFi, many teachers like to use a wired (ethernet) connection for added stability. As a rule of thumb, I aim for internet speeds of over 20mbps for online classes. 

Technology and gear: To successfully run virtual classes, you’ll need a computer or laptop that’s suitable for online teaching. Some companies allow you to teach from a tablet or smartphone, but in my experience, this is rare. 

Next, you’ll need a webcam, a headset with a microphone, and a professional teaching area that’s free from distractions. It’s also a good idea to invest in teaching materials like a dry-erase board, flashcards, and props. 

Some teaching experience: Almost all online teaching companies require that you have some experience teaching, tutoring, or mentoring. While professional teaching experience is a plus, experiences like babysitting and volunteering are usually acceptable. 

Keep in mind that every company is different and each platform will have unique requirements. Some might require that you have a degree, while others don’t. Some might require that you have several years of experience while others are happy to hire new educators. 

It’s important to read the company requirements carefully to make sure you have the right qualifications for your specific company before applying.

Online English Teaching Companies

Online English Teaching, Image of a silver laptop screen with the red, white and blue Union Jack Flag with a blurred green background.

There are tons of online English companies out there where you can teach. Here are a few reputable options to start your search. 

Twenix

Twenix hires native and non-native teachers from all over the world. You don’t need a degree or a TEFL certificate to teach for them; they train you on their conversation-based methodology and provide continuous training to their teachers.

For those of you who are unsure about teaching English to kids, the good thing about Twenix is that all the students are adults. Each class is 26 minutes long (twenty-six = Twenix!) and they focus on general and business English through conversation.

Another good thing about the company is that they provide all the teaching materials for each class and the lesson plans are designed to be used straight away without any prep. You also don’t need to market yourself to students like you do on other platforms. You just open available slots at the times you want to teach and the system will match you with students who want to do classes at those times. It’s quick, easy and very flexible!

iTalki

The platform that Andy teaches from most is iTalki. Even if you aren’t a native English speaker or speak more than one language, iTalki might be for you, because you can offer lessons in any of the languages you speak. You can make a community tutor profile on iTalki with or without a bachelor’s degree, no matter where you’re from.

On iTalki, you create your own lessons and courses. Andy teaches adults and has a ‘Conversation Practice Lesson’ and several courses including ‘Speak Fluent English’, ‘Advanced Vocabulary’, ‘IELTS Test Preparation’ and ‘Advanced Language for Business Meetings’. I’ve seen people list advanced classes like “English for Business Professionals” and “Resume Editing” as well, so you can get creative with what you teach. You also set your own pay rate and pick the hours you work.

Cambly

Cambly hires native English speakers to have conversation classes with people from all over the world. With Cambly, you can teach English online without a degree and you don’t need any teaching experience to get started, making this a great option for new and experienced teachers alike. Additionally, there isn’t a set lesson you have to follow since the focus is on building conversation skills.

The hourly rate of pay for Cambly teachers is fairly low, but you can also choose to offer lessons on-demand, so this is a flexible choice regardless of your schedule. If you enjoy talking to people from around the world, this could be a great option for you.

Outschool

On Outschool, you can teach any subject you’re an expert in, including English as a second language. Outschool allows you to offer group lessons to school-aged children and you can choose your what hours you work and pay rates. 

Outschool is a great option for teachers who want to create their own lessons, plus the platform offers high earning potential since you can teach many students at the same time. 

Lingoda

With Lingoda, you can teach English, Spanish, German, or French to adult language learners in Europe and around the world. Classes are small groups and the platform provides lesson plans and teaching materials. 

To join, you need to be fluent in the language you wish to teach and you’ll need a TEFL certification (or equivalent if teaching a language other than English). You’ll also need 2-3 years of experience teaching. 

VIPKID

In the past, VIPKID was primarily a platform for teaching English to students in China, Today, VIPKID has rolled out a new program with a global focus. Teachers can now offer English lessons to children aged 4-15 all over the world. 

One thing Nic loves about VIPKID is that they provide teachers with lesson plans so there’s no outside prep work.  To join, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, a TEFL certification, and at least two years of experience in a teaching setting.

Pros and Cons of Teaching Online

It didn’t take Andy or Nic long for me to realize that online teaching was a good decision for the lifestyle they wanted, but no job is perfect. Here are some of the pros and cons you might face as an online teacher.

Highlights of Online Teaching

One of the biggest perks is that online ESL teachers get to choose their own hours. Hours can vary from week to week, and you can work as much or as little as you like. This means you don’t have to ask for time off if you are travelling or unable to work a few days. Just close those spots on your schedule and you won’t be booked. 

Another highlight is getting to meet and engage with students from other cultures. Nic shared that she’s learnt so much about life around the world through her bright students and it’s a joy to see them each day. 

Since classes are often one-on-one, you build strong connections with the students you teach. I love showing my students pictures from my life and they’ve definitely met my curious cat. Even though we’re thousands of miles away, we can form strong bonds through our little online world.

Downsides of Online Teaching

Depending on the time zone you’re in, the hours for teaching online can be tricky. Navigating different time zones could mean you’re teaching early in the morning or late at night. 

Additionally, it can take a while to attract your first students when you’re starting out. It’s normal for teachers to take a few months before they get a fully booked schedule, which can be frustrating. Creating a strong profile to attract students can take time, but it’s essential at the beginning. 

Finally, almost all online teaching platforms hire teachers as independent contractors or freelancers. This means you don’t get paid time off or benefits like you would in a traditional job.

Day in the Life of an Online ESL Teacher

Teaching English Online to childre. Nicola Rae sitting in front of a wall map smiling with finger puppets.

In her own words – here’s Nic’s typical day teaching English online to children. She teaches from the East Coast of the US and starts between 6 am – 7 am.

Since I make my own schedule, I’m free to mix it up if I want to sleep in, but I’ve gotten used to the early mornings.

The night before, I spend about half an hour going through my upcoming lessons and making sure I have all my teaching materials at my desk. My platform provides lesson plans, but it’s nice to have extra props that make the learning experience more engaging for my students. 

When my alarm goes off, I make a cup of coffee and do some jumping jacks to get the blood pumping. I usually teach classes for about 3-4 hours. The classes last 25-minutes and I take a 5-minute break between each one. 

Each day, I might see a mixture of recurring students and new students. Sessions are one-to-one, so I can focus on areas that each individual student is working on. 

After classes are finished in the early afternoon, I take a few minutes to finish writing feedback to the parents. Once the feedback is submitted, I’m done with teaching for the day. 

I can use the rest of the day however I want – exploring new places, spending time outdoors, visiting with friends and family, or working on hobbies and passion projects.

Teaching English online has opened up my life to so many opportunities. I’ve been able to spend time with loved ones and friends who live far away, visit new cities, and have more adventures than I ever thought possible, all while keeping a job I love.

Nic from See Nic Wander

If you teach English online, which platform do you use?

If you’re thinking about teaching online feel free to ask any questions – Andy teaches English online every day so should be able to help!

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Teaching English Online, Day in the Life of an online English Teacher
Teaching English Online, Day in the Life of an online English Teacher

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Tanya Korteling

Tanya is the founder and head content creator for Can Travel Will Travel. She combines freelance SEO, CRO, Data and Marketing consultancy with exploring the world. Passionate about adventure, nature, wildlife and food, she incorporates these in her travels as much as possible. She also loves immersing herself in new cultures. She's visited hundreds of destinations in 50+ countries and lived in 4 countries. Tanya worked as a Data Planning Manager and Digital Marketing Strategist before leaving the UK in 2016 with her husband Andy, to travel, live and work abroad indefinitely. Together they share their experiences and useful information to inspire and encourage others to do the same.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Stuart Forster

    Teaching others sounds a rewarding expereince. I’d never considered it ahead of reading this post.

    1. Tanya Korteling

      It is, and a great way of having the flexibility to live, travel and work from anywhere 🙂

  2. Zoe Liang

    Great post on online teaching and a peak into the life of an online English teacher, looking forward to more to come!

    1. Tanya Korteling

      Thankyou 🙂

  3. Thank you for sharing this ! Sounds like the perfect way to earn some money while traveling 🙂 And it’s always fun to teach and be around kids !

    1. TanyaKorteling

      Yes definitely, at least it is anywhere you have guaranteed good wifi 🙂

  4. Stuart Fahy

    Very good article. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. It would definitely allow me more freedom to do what I actually want and avoid returning to dreaded office work. I lived in Spain for almost two years working as an English teacher until recently. It might be time to finally give this a go.

    1. TanyaKorteling

      Definitely give it a go again – best thing we ever did was leaving the UK 🙂

  5. Anna

    Hey Tanya!
    Great post! I enjoyed reading it. It definitely has some good points and what an opportunity.

    1. TanyaKorteling

      Thank you – glad you enjoyed it.

  6. Sue Lucas

    I really enjoyed reading this! I think VipKid is an incredible side hustle and perfect for individuals that like to travel or have another full time job. Great post!

    1. TanyaKorteling

      Yes I think it so too!

      Thank you 🙂

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